Stratford Battle It Out At The Olympic Lake and Hereford

Last Saturday a Stratford upon Avon Boat Club coxed four of 16/17 year girls returned to the Olympic lake for the internationally renowned Metropolitan Regatta organised by London Rowing Club to take on university crews from all over the UK and Ireland. Katie Wellstead, Khloe Curnock, Emily Browne and Molly Gill-Swift once more expertly coxed by Mimi Hill rowed well in their heat to finish in second place and qualify for the final. In a most exciting race the Stratford girls got off to a blistering start and at 1200 metres were in a medal contention. Some of the opposition edged away over the final 800 metres leaving the girls just six seconds off the win and in fifth place.

Said coach Dr Graham Collier, “This was a bold performance against quality student opposition. Now it’s onwards to Henley Women’s Regatta later this month!”

Stratford Boat Club’s Elite Senior Men’s coxless four had some hard racing on the last day of Metropolitan Regatta, held at Dorney Eton. The crew are aiming to qualify for the Wyfold Cup at Henley Royal Regatta, held in early July each year and Metropolitan Regatta is a pathway to automatic qualification.

After coming fifth and being knocked out in the semi-final of the Championship Four in the morning, they raced again in the afternoon. This time they successfully navigated the semi-final and reached the final of the Horton Cup.

The final was very blustery with a cross wind pushing all the crews out of their lanes. However, being on the far side of the course, the Stratford men were significantly affected. Eventually after a number of warnings from the umpire regarding their steering and consistently needing to reset the boat after being blown onto the buoys, they finished fifth being in contention right until the last few hundred metres.

Bill Sullivan, the Elite Senior Men’s’ coach commented, “In the circumstances, the crew of Michael Hourigan, Patrick Hourigan, Finn Sprackling and Tom Coles performed well and showed the benefit of the last few weeks of hard training. Whilst we haven’t done enough to qualify for Henley just yet, the crew can move forward with confidence to the British Championships and Marlow Regatta later this month.”

This weekend the Junior 14 and 15 squads, along with the mixed Masters’ double scull, travelled to Hereford for their annual two day regatta. Saturday saw the athletes compete over the 1km straight course.

First up was the WJ14 doubles where Honour Keil and Bella Chappelhow competed together alongside Fleur Griffiths and Harriet Holmes. Both crews faced tough opposition from City of Bristol and the races came right down to the line. Unfortunately both crews were just edged out and it was the Bristol crews that went on to the semifinals.

In the afternoon Lucy Browne and Tomi Wilcock took to the water in the own respective J14 singles events. Lucy was again drawn against a strong sculler from City of Bristol and despite some brilliant sculling just missed out on her place in the semifinals. Tomi faced two scullers from Hereford in the first round and in the semifinal, he beat both convincingly to take his place in the final. Here Tomi faced a sculler from Stourport who despite his best efforts was not strong enough to get close to Tomi as he cruised to his first win in the single scull.

The WJ14 quad was the last boat of the day for the J14’s, comprising of Harriet Holmes, Bella Chappelhow, Ruby Howells, Honour Keil and cox Toby Sartain. They were drawn to have a bye to the final and there they faced the crew from Bristol who last week finished fourth at the National Schools Regatta. The Stratford crew tried their best but it wasn’t enough to overhaul the strong Bristol crew.

Sunday saw the shorter 500m course where again the day started with the WJ14 double sculls. This time Harriet Holmes teamed up with Honour Keil and Fleur Griffiths with Lucy Browne. Both doubles again found themselves against two very strong Bristol crews and despite the Stratford girls putting in some very good performances, they were not strong enough to beat the Bristol crews. Tomi Wilcock and Bella Chappelhow also teamed up in the J14 doubles to race again against Bristol and despite having held the lead the all-male Bristol crew pushed through in the last few meters to take the win.

In the afternoon, the J14 coxed quad of Bella Chappelhow, Ruby Howells, Anne Mynors and Toby Sartain, coxed by Honour Keil raced against an all-boys crew from Hereford Cathedral School where, despite a big push towards the line, they were pipped into second place.

Lucy Browne, Harriet Holmes, Fleur Griffiths and Tomi Wilcock took to the water in their singles. Lucy put in a fantastic performance and was just edged out as she approached the line by a strong Bristol sculler. Harriet raced against another sculler from Bristol but this time it was the Stratford sculler who won her heat. In the semifinal she was met by Fleur who had faced a girl from Hereford Cathedral School who unfortunately capsized, with Fleur sculling down to take the win. Fleur and Harriet both sculled brilliantly in a tight race with Fleur just taking the lead and her place in the final. Here she met the sculler that Lucy had raced earlier in the afternoon and she knew this would be tough. Fleur held her nerve and had belief in her sculling to push ahead over the line by just two feet to take the event win.

Tomi, for the second day running, made his way to the final, beating scullers from Bristol and Hereford to take his final spot where he faced another sculler from Bristol. This was close to the bridge where the Bristol sculler had to stop because he had moved too close to the bridge to be able to pass through, meaning that Tomi could relax over the last part of the course on his way to victory.

Said Abi Terry, J14 coach, “A brilliant weekend’s racing in a very relaxed environment with some fantastic sculling: the squad are looking promising and forward to our next event, the Lodders Stratford upon Avon Boat Club home regatta on Saturday15th June.

For the J15 squad, the weekend began with Amelie Sartain in the single sculls event. In an exciting thousand metre bow ball to bow ball race, Sartain pushed ahead in the closing stages to win by one and a half lengths.

The afternoon saw Sartain on the water again this time in the double with Fleur Griffiths (J14). Winning their semifinal easily, the girls met strong fresh competition for the final. After a fast start, both boats were level at the halfway point as they approached the bridge. Keeping their line and settling into their rhythm, Griffiths and Sartain appeared in control when suddenly the opposition drifted out of their lane resulting in a blade clash. The girls recovered well but were now a length behind with only 250m to go. Passing under the bridge the cheers could now be heard along the final straight. Inspired by the support and with true determination from within, the boat accelerated past the opposition to take the win by three quarters of a length, a truly remarkable finish.

Sunday was the shortened 500m course for the sprint events with Martha Usselmann beginning the morning’s racing for the squad. With a fast start and maintaining her strong technique throughout, Usselmann was in good position as they passed the bridge however the more experienced opposition slowly drew clear to win.

Following on, confident heat racing found Sartain again in the singles final however despite a good start and powerful sprint, she was pipped in the closing strokes to finish second.

The final event for the J15s had Sartain and Usselmann competing in the doubles event. Through their heat after a close race against strong local competition, the girls faced familiar adversaries in the final. Another strong performance led to an exciting finish as the boats passed under the bridge keeping pace with each other however the finishing line came too soon as they crossed in a close second place after a well fought race throughout. Commenting, Trevor Tiller J15 coach, said, “The high level of competition over the weekend has been of great benefit especially as the British Rowing Junior Championships in July is just over the horizon!”

For media coverage, see Stratford Herald page 15 and

Interested in your son or daughter learning to row? See Stratford upon Avon Boat Club’s Summer Camps at

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